Naming the Stories (1964-1979)

Most all the comic strip stories published prior to 1971, and several from later years, did not have titles displayed on the strips. Each week’s episode was simply headed “Doctor Who” or “Dr Who”, or even for a short time “Doctor Who and the Daleks”.

A dilemma I faced when writing The Comic Strip Companion was how I should refer to these unnamed stories. Purists might argue that they should simply be called ‘Story 1′, Story 2’, ‘Story 3’, etc, but that was an unappealing solution.

The earliest published analysis of Doctor Who comic strips that I know of is ‘Stripped Assets’, a series of articles written by Martin Wiggins that appeared in 1980-81 issues of the fanzine Web Planet. These articles covered the 1970s Third and Fourth Doctor strips. Most of the stories from this era had titles, but Martin elected to avoid assigning any names to those that did not in his commentary.

Jeremy Bentham subsequently wrote a series of ‘Comics Checklist’ articles in 1982 issues of Doctor Who Monthly, covering the strips from the beginning. Bentham devised a set of invented titles, many of which are still in use to this day. It is from Bentham that we get such names as ‘The Klepton Parasites’, ‘The Night Walkers’ and The Fishmen of Carpantha’.

Some of the titles that appeared in the Comics Checklist were Bentham’s own creation; others he had taken from clues on the strips. Although the stories were untitled on the headings, adventures would sometimes end on a caption promoting the following week’s new tale. ‘Master of Spiders!’ for example derives its name from the line at the end of the preceding strip story, ‘The Zombies’, which reads ‘A sinister new adventure with Dr Who starts next week: “Master of Spiders!”’

Jean-Marc Lofficier provided a guide to the comic strips in his book Doctor Who – The Terrestrial Index published in 1992. Lofficier adopted the titles Jeremy had compiled, but also offered alternatives of his own. From Lofficier we get such titles as ‘Enter: The Go-Ray’, ‘The Extortioner’ and ‘The Doctor Strikes Back’ (Bentham’s versions of these were respectively: ‘Burn-Out’, ‘Volcano’ and ‘Fight-Back’).

1992 also saw the arrival of Doctor Who Classic Comics, a sister publication to Doctor Who Magazine, that featured in its early issues a series of ‘Frame Count’ comics listings compiled by John Ainsworth. These featured titles derived from Bentham and Lofficier’s guides, but also added a handful of additional stories , such as ‘Barnabus’, ‘Jungle Adventure’, ‘Assassin from Space’ and ‘Undercover’. These were titles invented by Ainsworth for stories that both Bentham and Lofficier had overlooked in their guides.

The Classic Comics listings also replaced a number of the previously established titles with new names such as ‘Jungle of Doom’ (formerly Bentham’s ‘The Hunted’ and Lofficier’s ‘Hunted by the Quarks’), ‘Dredger’ (formerly ‘The Intruders’), and ‘Kling Dynasty’ (formerly ‘Shadow of the Dragon’). These were not newly-invented titles but rather those that had been devised by the creators of the strips. Even though the published strips were untitled, the writers had titled their stories, presumably for internal reference purposes.The advantage that Ainsworth had over Bentham and Lofficier was that he had access to notes that had been compiled from the original paperwork held in BBC Enterprises files.

Furthermore, Ainsworth picked up on a number of ‘next week’ titles that had appeared on the strip but had not been adopted by Bentham or Lofficier. This resulted in the introduction of titles including ‘The Faithful Rocket Pack’ (formerly ‘Sabotage’), and ‘Jungle of Doom’ (formerly either ‘The Hunted’ or ‘Hunted by the Quarks’).

I asked Bentham, Lofficier and Ainsworth about their respective comic strip research in order to establish where the titles had originated.

All of the comics titles derived from the work of these three writers are documented in my book. I have used a set of names that do not always match those used before. Many of the titles will be familiar to those who have read Bentham, Lofficier or Ainsworth’s guides, but others are fresh additions. My examination of the likely origins of some of the previously-used titles revealed that these were not always the most apposite choices.

One of the invented names from the Doctor Who Monthly Comics Checklist, ‘The Metal Eaters’, was already in use on another story. To avoid unnecessary duplication and confusion I replaced this with one of my own, ‘The Mysterious Meteorite’, a phrase lifted from a line in the strip. I modified another invented title, ‘The Plant-Master’, to ‘The Master-Plant’ as this was a better match for the term used in the story. ‘Trial of Fire’ was modified to ‘Trail of Fire’ because this appeared on the cover of TV Comic in reference to the story, and was most likely what was originally intended. (I suspect Bentham’s version, using ‘Trial’ instead of ‘Trail’ might have originated as a typographical error!)

I also viewed files from the BBC Written Archives Centre filled with correspondence relating to approvals and contracts for the Doctor Who comic strip in the 1960s and early 1970s. This provided a great deal of invaluable material for the book. The paperwork revealed the hitherto unknown titles for a number of strips, as devised by the writers who worked on the stories. What had been previously called ‘Shark Bait’ was in fact the rather delightful ‘Dr. Who meets the Frog People’, ‘The Coming of the Cybermen’ was ‘Secret of the Cybermen’, and ‘Cyber-Mole’ was ‘The Big Dig’.

In a couple of instances the story changed dramatically between synopsis and final strip as a result of requests from the BBC. In these cases I considered it prudent to modify the originally intended titles to match the alterations. For example, ‘In Search of the Dodo’ became ‘In Search of the Didus’, and ‘Dr. Who and the Rocks from Mars’ became ‘Dr. Who and the Rocks from Venus’. All such modifications are thoroughly documented in the book.

The last title revisions were made close to publication. I discovered in 2012 that David Motton had written a number of Doctor Who stories for TV Comic in the 1960s. Motton generously shared with me some of his surviving paperwork. I learned the correct titles of his stories, including ‘Home to Hamelin’ (formerly ‘Challenge of the Piper’), and ‘The Pets’ (formerly ‘Kingdom of the Animals’ or ‘Birds in a Cage’). One of Motton’s stories was commonly known as ‘Time in Reverse’. This was one of Jeremy Bentham’s invented titles for his 1982 Doctor Who Monthly articles; he could not have known at the time how close he’d came to correctly guessing the story’s actual title: ‘In Reverse’!